First Flight 40 Years Ago Gave Lift to Citation Series

 - September 29, 2009, 7:00 AM

Cessna Aircraft last month celebrated the 40th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Citation 500, the first model in its now broad series of business jets. On Sept. 15, 1969, pilot Milt Sills and copilot J.L. LeSueur flew the first Citation prototype from Wichita Municipal Airport–now Mid-Continent Airport–on a successful one-hour, 45-minute sortie. The Citation 500 received FAA certification in September 1971, and deliveries began four months later. Cessna unveiled a mockup of the aircraft on Oct. 7, 1968, at the 21st NBAA Convention in Houston, originally calling it the Fanjet 500.

One year later, Cessna vice president of jet marketing James B. Taylor convinced company executives to rebrand the jet as the Citation, naming it after the thoroughbred racehorse that won the Triple Crown in 1948. When the company launched the jet in 1968, its goal was to offer a business jet that was an easy transition for twin-turboprop pilots, as well as a simpler, safer and less expensive option than other existing business jets. The six-passenger, 349-ktas Citation 500 was originally priced at $695,000. By the end of 1972 Cessna had delivered 52 Citation 500s, at the time making it the best-selling business jet in its first year of production.